Looks like the dream team of Mavis Staples and Jeff Tweedy will continue their collaboration on Staples new album entitled, One True Vine. The album will be released on June 25th and feature Funkadelic and Low cover songs, as well as original tunes written specifically for the legendary soul singer by Tweedy and Nick Lowe. Get a taste of the album with Staples’ cover of Funkadelic’s “Can You Get To That” below.
From Sharon Van Etten’s 2010 album Epic, “Peace Signs” is chick rock at it’s best. Dark and moody yet sweet and subtle the song drives along with the chug of an electric guitar and the pounding of an unavoidable bass drum. A ‘sign’ of good things to come this well crafted tune is reflected in Van Etten’s newest album Tramp, which employs these tricks to their fullest ability.
“He made this world for us to live in and gave us everything. And all He asks of us, is we give each other love.” An absolutely beautiful song with a beautiful message off of one of the greatest albums of all time. “God Is Love” is just one of many breathtaking tracks off Marvin Gaye’s masterpiece soul album What’s Going On that explores politics, life, love, and religion.
Laura Marling will release her new album Once I Was An Eagle on May 28th in the US and from the sounds of things it’ll be a good one. Marling’s first official single “Where Can I Go?” can be heard below plus you can watch a live performance of fellow new track “Pray For Me” that was previewed last year for WNYC.
Low has been teasing songs for their new album The Invisible Way due out March 19th, but the newest release “So Blue” really caught my attention and not just because it was produced by Jeff Tweedy. The song’s slow build and pounding piano along with Mimi Parker’s vocal make from one stunning track. Check it out below.
Beck has been teasing his 360 degree experience of the David Bowie classic “Sound and Vision” for weeks but the final product was worth the wait. Featuring over 160 musicians and 9+ minutes of crazy surround sound Beck has not only set an insanely high bar for cover songs but a completely immersive and visceral experience. Check out the video below or if you are more patient go here for the official experience, but either way be sure to listen with headphones for the full effect.
The Avett Brothers left it all out on the floor during their 4 minute performance on Late NIght with Jimmy Fallon the other night. Did someone tell them their lives depended on this performance, because I have seen them rock but this was on a new level. They kick it off with old favorite “Kick Drum Heart,” which featured a nice little guitar solo from Seth and then finished up with “Geraldine” off their new album The Carpenter. A lot has been said about the brothers being out-played at the 2011 Grammys but this performance shows they can really bring it. Their spring tour kicks off in April and we highly recommend checking them out on the road.
If you are even a casual fan of My Morning Jacket or the band’s enigmatic frontman Jim James then you have probably already read the many articles describing James’ inspiration for his new the album, the parallels his life made to the 1929 graphic novel God’s Man and his deep love for the ever charismatic Bruce Springsteen. A simple google search will bring up plenty of that information so we’ll skip the background and go straight to the main event, Regions of Light and Sound of God. James’ first official solo album is a testament to his creativity and ability to write beautiful songs that somehow push the boundaries of popular music but remain likable at first listen. Combining highly danceable back beats with soulful instrumentation and James’ trademark vocals Regions is everything you would expect from the frontman of My Morning Jacket without actually sounding like a Jacket album. Notoriously eccentric yet accessible James seems to be coming into his own these days and Regions is a perfect example of this new shift in positive energy and complete confidence; an artist who is firing on all cylinders and making timeless music at every turn.
James’ love for experimenting with production shines through with tracks like “Know Til Now and “State of the Art,” yet he takes a more straight forward approach with songs like “Of The Mother Again” that is all stripped down sweetness. Clocking in under 35 minutes and just 9 songs in length the album is far too short for my tastes, but when one of those songs is as beautiful as “A New Life” I am willing to forgive and forget. The only slightly weak moment on the album comes at the very end with the final two songs. “All Is Forgiven” and “God’s Love to Deliver,” may have lyrics that dig deep and resonate days after, but their melodies never really live up to the bar set by the rest of the album. That being said, repeat listens (like the 50+ I have now given the album) soften this opinion and you become accustomed to their sad tones and off-kilter instrumentals.
Regions of Light and Sound of God was recorded over a 2 and a half year period whenever James had time off from MMJ, but has ended up as something much more than a simple distraction from boredom. The album as a whole tells a complete story and the music feels incredibly fresh and original yet familiar. James is solidifying himself as one of today’s most prolific and talented songwriters who is constantly reinventing the mold but managing to stay relatable. James is the type of unexpected songwriter that always leaves you wanting more and with my Morning Jacket returning to the studio this summer I’m anxious to see what’s next.
Having caught Kurt Vile live a few years back I was instantly drawn to his moody vocals and catchy melodies. I immediately dove into his back catalog and as a fan of his last album Smoke Ring for My Halo, I was anxious to hear the new single, which did not disappoint. Perfectly titled “Wakin’ On a Pretty Day” the new tune is airy and meandering at 9+minutes with the kind of guitar work and vocal softness you have come to love from Vile. Get in the mood for Spring with the new tune below.
We met up with Floating Action on a rather cold and snowy evening in Port Chester NY for a cup of Brazilian coffee and some good conversation before they took the stage, opening on the final evening of My Morning Jacket’s Capitol Theatre run. The man behind Floating Action is Seth Kauffman, but he travels with a full band and we were lucky enough to meet (almost) the whole crew and sit with Seth and one of his drummers Evan(yes, he has two drummers and it is quite cool). Floating Action’s new album Fake Blood has been in heavy rotation around these parts for several months now but we were interested in meeting the man behind the tunes and picking his brain on all things music.
Seth Kauffman is one interesting individual, not only does he make infectious and enigmatic music, but he is also a pro-level mountain biker and snowboarder, and a lover of music spanning the spectrum of Jackie Wilson to Tame Impala. With such varying interests and a stellar new album we were excited to sit down with Kauffman and try to unravel the mystery that is Floating Action. Originally from the mountains of NC and currently living just outside Asheville, Kauffman was raised in bluegrass country, but has managed to carve out a niche for himself and create a sound all his own. There is no musical category or style I can think of that Kauffman would fit squarely into, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact the bulk of our short chat focused on the idea of originality versus accessibility. Not necessarily a light topic for a casual chat over coffee, but something that is important to acknowledge in this current environment of news and music that provides us with a constant onslaught of information. With so many new bands seemingly popping up on a daily basis coming up with the a sound that is original, unique yet still accessible is no easy task. Kauffman described playing soccer as a child and watching all the other kids constantly rush to the ball only to collide with each other and ultimately accomplish nothing. Kauffman instead would linger back, watch the play develop and try to meet the ball where it was going, or where it would soon be. He institutes this same tactic when sitting down to write music; try to figure out where the ball is going so you can get there first.
Unfortunately, not only is Kauffman attempting to stand out amongst current music but also not recycle sounds that have already been heard. With so many epic bands of the past laying ground work and so many current bands pushing the envelope, being original and truly authentic becomes a rather daunting task. Today there are so many music genres and classifications that the labels seem to loose their meaning. For instance, did you know there is something called folk viking metal? Sounds misguided. Luckily, most bands that are just interested in being different without having much substance behind the music don’t seem to hang around too long and usually attract fans that are just looking to be first to the ball. These fans are more interested in bragging to their friends about being the first to discover a band than the actual music the band is creating. The fake fan (referred to in some circles as a hipster) is yet another side effect of the internet’s constant stream of information where every new band is made out to be the next great thing, even though most of them will be yesterday’s news in less than a year. These bands put an extra level of distortion on their guitars and call it revolutionary, they add the sound of screeching tires to a song and refer to it as art, yet there is no real rhyme or reason behind their modifications and any real fan of music can sense the difference. Some like to call these not-so-well-meaning individuals posers, Kauffman likes to call them fake blood. Although we tried, Kauffman did not sell out any particular band or genre, but the title of his newest album, Fake Blood speaks for itself. The idea of staying true to your art while setting yourself apart and still making music people enjoy is a constant struggle, but one that is worth fighting. Kauffman takes this idea very seriously and carefully analyzes every lyric, note and beat that goes into his songwriting. In fact sometimes he wonders if he is overanalyzing the things that don’t seem to matter as much to the general public, but as a member of that public I can vouch for the preference of listening to something that was intricately sculpted rather than haphazardly thrown together. I suppose it all comes down to something Johnny Cash once sang “I keep my eyes wide open all the time, I keep the end out for the tie that binds… I walk the line.”
Of course walking this line of accessibly and artistic integrity can be difficult when you are the composer, producer, and bottom line, which Kauffman is. Since he writes and records all the music alone from his home studio Kauffman is left to make all the decisions, which can sometimes lead to a fair amount of self doubt. Just bouncing ideas off yourself and the four walls of a recording studio seems like a rather lonesome act, and although he enjoys having the final word, he sometimes wonders if he suffers from the lack of an editor. Even his label situation, Jim James’ owned Removador, leaves him with very little input since James is less a boss and more of a fan that wants to give Kauffman complete creative freedom. With such a singular recording situation it is hard to know if you are on to something really great or have just been listening to something so many times that you think it’s great. Plus Kauffman often cuts himself off from the outside world while recording, which is probably a good thing since the market has become obsessed with poppy singles and spotify playlists. The new challenge becomes getting an audience to surrender their attention long enough to truly absorb music that was not meant to be quickly devoured, or else great music will undoubtedly fall between the cracks. Floating Action is full of the subtleties and intricacies that the modern listener might not pick up on as they preview their 30 seconds on iTunes searching for their daily dose of instant gratification, and quite frankly they are missing out. Quirky and completely original Kauffman has done a great job of staying ahead of the curve while still maintaining a level of accessibility. His music has always carried a sense of authenticity and even the band’s live show, which I had the pleasure of witnessing, speaks to Floating Action’s beat driven accessibility and Kauffman’s musical integrity. With duel drums and Kauffman’s subtle guitar solos the music is brought to life and captures your attention even better than on the record. Frankly, I enjoyed the live show so much that I started wondering if Kauffman should record with a full band in studio, but I leave those decisions to the man himself.
With his fifth album, Fake Blood out now and a brand new album on the horizon in 2013, Kauffman seems to have hit his creative stride. Fake Blood’s twelve tracks speak to his integrity and with repeat listens it’s clear that Kauffman has walked the line of accessibility and artistry with ease. As you sit across from Kauffman you get the sense that he is mulling things over in his head and slowing coming to realizations so that he can deliver a thoughtful response, and this insightfulness is reflected in his music. Like the man, Fake Blood will not bowl you over from the first listen, shake you and demand your attention, it will slowly and thoughtfully reveal itself to you over time, and if you lean in slightly and give it your full attention you can hear the whispers of something really meaningful.
Stay tuned for news on Floating Action’s next album coming out in 2013.
Canadian singer-songwriter Hayden has been churning out tunes since the 90′s and his newest effort, Us Alone, is due out on February 5th. While you wait, enjoy the stripped down sounds of his new single “Rainy Saturday” below.
You can imagine the quizzical looks one might receive from family and friends when announcing you will be driving 10 hours the day after Christmas to watch the same band perform in the same venue three nights in a row. Explanations of the band’s extensive catalog, no repeat set lists, and incredible live show ensue, but as you watch their eyes glaze over you know – they just don’t get it. With the mere mention of this strange pilgrimage, you have gone from normal working adult to no shower hippie selling grilled cheeses out of the back of a van in a matter of minutes. Fortunately I can live with the stigma, because recently I experienced three incredible nights of great music.
My Morning Jacket announced their residency at The Capitol Theatre in September and tickets sold out in a matter of minutes as fans from around the country clamored to secure a spot at what sounded a whole lot like the event of the year. The Capitol Theatre opened in 1926, but has had many ownership changes and major renovations since then. In it’s 70′s heyday, the venue saw acts such as Pink Floyd, Janis Joplin and The Grateful Dead perform on The Capital stage, but by the 90′s it had closed it’s doors twice and was nothing more than a catering hall. Luckily, the now historic theatre is back and brought to you by the same guys behind the Brooklyn Bowl and Relix magazine; a bunch who clearly know how to rock n’ roll. This quaint yet ornate theatre complete with impeccable sound and no-drugs-needed psychedelic light shows seemed like the ideal place for a band like My Morning Jacket to set up camp. Known for their charismatic live shows, larger than life sound, and lengthy set lists full of everything from 30 minute jam outs to cover songs, MMJ was the perfect choice for three nights of magic at this historic theatre.
From the moment the boys took the stage on Thursday night they had the audience in the palm of their hands. These kinds of residencies would seem to promote sloppy fans with the sole desire to jam out aimlessly, but for the most part MMJ fans are serious about their music. I spoke with more than one fan who said they even limit they alcohol intake in an effort to remember every single moment of the show in sharp detail. These same fans not only waited in the snow for hours before show time to stake claim to the front row, but also tirelessly prevented debaucherous late comers from pushing forward throughout the set. Even with this intensity there was an incredibly positive vibe throughout the crowd, as most of the people were there for more than one night, had traveled anywhere from Canada to Kentucky and were all about the music. Songs like “Cobra,” “X-Mas Curtain” and an epic 12+ minute rendition of “Phone Went West” got ample applause, but no one could deny that even the Jacket standards like “Holding On To Black Metal” and “Mahgeetah” seemed to shine more than ever. Maybe it was the theatre, the band’s energy, the rabid fans, or the excitement behind seeing three nights of incredible music, but it felt like something magical was in the air. Even Jim James, who usually performs behind a mess of curls, seemed more open than ever as he ceremoniously tossed his trademark black hand towel to the back of the stage and brushed the hair out of his face to connect with the audience. James tends to be a charismatic yet reserved frontman, but by Saturday evening he was channeling Bruce Springsteen and connecting with as many fans as possible. This was probably due to the intimacy of the rather small theater and the fact that James started recognizing people by the third night, but there was a real feeling of togetherness and joy in the air as we all sensed we were experiencing something truly special.
Of course each evening was filled with it’s own surprises making it impossible to choose a favorite. You would even be hard pressed to pick a clear winner for the opening act, since they were all so unique. From the rock out Deer Tick set complete with Nirvana cover on Thursday, to the welcome addition of horns from Antibalas on Friday, to the beat driven and infectious Floating Action on Saturday; the opening bands did a great job of setting the tone. In fact, even My Morning Jackets’ set lists couldn’t have been more balanced, as each night saw an equal mix of old and new favorites. The band left very little on the table at the end of the three days as they delivered an incredibly even distribution of songs from their 14 year catalog. I can honestly say that there were only a couple tunes that I wanted to hear which were omitted (“Hopefully” being one), but that just speaks to the depth of their catalog more than anything. The real beauty behind going to see MMJ live or just listening to one of their albums is the unbelievably varied musical styles you will find. Heavy rockers like “Highly Suspicious,” flow into soft ballads like “Wonderful,” that precede slow burners like “Steam Engine,” and lead to absolutely epic jams like “Anytime,” “Gideon,” and “Cobra” to name a few. There is something in here for everyone as pop hits like “I’m Amazed,” “Golden” and “The Way That He Sings” would satisfy even the newest fan and 9+ minute incendiary renditions of fan favorites like “Honest Man” are prime to blow minds. One minute you are in the middle of a dance party with tunes like “Touch Me I’m Going To Scream Part II” or Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long” and the next minute you are zoning out to jams like “Run Thru.” It’s a damn master class in how to structure a well developed setlist.
Naturally there were also a few covers thrown in for good measure, and although less than expected, songs like The Band’s “It Makes No Difference” and Elton John’s “Rocket Man” were welcome additions. None more so than Erykah Badu’s “Tyrone” which the band played on the first evening and became equal parts psychedelic rocker and groovy soul satisfier. When you go to a show like this there are moments you are hoping will happen and then there are others that sneak up on you and present the surprises you couldn’t have predicted. Songs like “The Bear,” “Strangulation!” and “Master Plan” far exceeded my already lofty expectations and then others like “Slow Slow Tune” and Carl Broemel’s “Carried Away” came out of no where and granted those unexpected moments.
My Morning Jacket is one of those rare bands that continues to top themselves even though expectations for their live show are at an all time high. With epic performances at venues across the country like Red Rocks, Merriweather Post Pavilion, The Wiltern and Forecastle Festival fans begin to want more and more from the band’s live show, yet Jacket never fails to deliver something special. This being my fifth Jacket show since August I expected the three night stint to leave me feeling completely and utterly satisfied, but I already found myself searching their website to see where they are playing next. What can I say these five guys have something special and you are never entirely certain what they are going to do when they take the stage. James is a soulful and captivating frontman, Patrick is a relentlessly charismatic drummer, Carl’s guitar prowess is a cross between Nels Cline and Pete Townshend, and Bo and Tommy are as cool as cucumbers. Together they seem to having one hell of a good time on stage and their positive vibes are infectious as you get the distinct feeling the band is having just as much fun as you are. In fact, there was nothing but love in the air when on the final evening James thanked the people in attendance for making the band’s “dream come true” and shared his wish for the new year to be filled with love, tolerance and peace. I couldn’t think if a better message to end one of the best three nights in memory.